Animal dissection in science classes continues to be a large issue for vegans, vegetarians, and people with any kind of moral compass at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that dissection is necessary for some people: doctors, veterinarians, etc. However, a Biology class required to graduate for art, English, or other unrelated majors should not include dissection at all, much less as a mandatory assignment.
Here is how I, a vegan, was punished for refusing to participate in dissection.
Two weeks ago, we were forced to do a dissection in lab. Crayfish, oysters, and a plethora if little animals were spread all over the shiny, black countertops for us to pick apart with an array of scalpels, forceps, needles, and tweezers. I have some serious moral issues with dissection, as many people do. My teacher informed us that the next week, we would be dissecting fetal pigs and rats. I finally drew the line there and told her that I would not be participating in that and would like an alternative assignment. Even a virtual dissection. At first, she seemed confused and told me that it would be alright if I brought in a dead deer or other animal to dissect. I said that it wasn’t the specific animals I had a problem with, it was with the practice of dissection itself. She told me to get over it; that the pigs would die anyway, and we were just speeding along the process. In fact, we were saving them from their eventual demise…by killing them earlier. Because that makes total sense, you guys. She also told me to think of it as bacon, which I explained that I didn’t eat, much to her confusion.
I tried to reason with her. I asked if there was absolutely anything else I could do. She said the dissection was mandatory. I talked with my biology lecture instructor, and she said that she too was completely opposed to the practice. An MS in Biology, and this woman has never cut anything open or attended a dissection. She said that although she has pressured the school to offer alternative assignments, they have refused. Tennessee is one of the few states left where they are not required to provide an alternate assignment to students who object to dissections for moral or religious reasons.
So, I didn’t go. I know, it’s my grade, blah, blah, blah. But y’know, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, I knew I’d get sick and probably emotional because, hello! baby pigs! I still did the actual grade for the lab by doing my own learning. I filled out all of the “lab questions,” which required much more effort than what the students who attended the dissection had to put in, as I wasn’t there to witness the answers to our questions.
The next week, returning to lab, I brought my lab questions, which were due that day, to my lab instructor. She said that I could not turn them in because I did not attend the lab. Therefore, how would I know the answers to the questions? I told her that I had done my own research online and in our textbook and had written down more-than-adequete answers. She said that it was her policy that students who did not attend lecture were not allowed to turn in assignments for said lecture.
At this moment, a friend of mine, who has no opposition to dissection, actually yelled out, “He’s a vegan! He’s not going to come in here and cut up dead animals!” The teacher rolled her eyes at me at the mention of the word vegan. She then said that if I had merely let her know that I was opposed to this, she would offer me an alternative assignment. At this point she walked away to poke brains or disembowel kittens or whatever.
So, I am left with having done the work but not receiving the credit. In the same lab which I attended, she “surprised” the class by bringing in sheep brains and hearts to dissect. Fortunately they were already sliced up as much as necessary, and I never actually had to look at or touch them.
The point of all of this is that I want to know why this is required. Why is it that in an attempt to further my education, I am required to attend a class that does not benefit me in any way but also requires that I violate my own morals. It is an archaic, barbaric practice which does not benefit 90% of the people in the class in any way. I also wonder why I am treated differently than my peers in that class, merely because I am morally opposed to dissection.
If you’d like, I have the phone number for the school here: